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How Not To Do It

Over the 12 years I've been running Sideburn I've been contacted by several would-be contributors. Some have become regulars and others fall in the camp of this latest correspondent. There are so many mistakes in this person's approach that I thought I'd use it as an example of how not to approach an editor.

First, I want to point out that I have no formal training in journalism. I left school at 16 with mediocre everything and started an engineering apprenticeship and then elbowed my way into the specialist magazine world, so I'm in no means an expert, but I've survived in the cut-throat freelance journalism arena for over 20 years, after a short five years as a staff writer, features ed and editor on bike and car mags. I've learned along the way, but I still have a lot to learn. I also realise that I leave mistakes in hastily posted blogs, but when it comes to the magazine we work hard to minimise them. The blog is just a free and easy creative blowout, fit in around everything else for the amusement of Sideburn's followers. I must try harder though.

This person's approach got my back up so much I wanted to highlight the mistakes (from my point of view). Perhaps you can show this blog post to a younger relative, or consider it yourself if you plan a change in direction, to make sure they're not repeated. GI

Initial approach

Good Morning,

I have seen your Instagram page and your website, and would like to know if you use Contributors?

I write for several publications but always looking to increase my portfolio.

It would be good to discuss any opportunities.

Look forward to hearing from you.



This person has worked out we're a real magazine (not just an instagram feed with the word 'magazine' in their name) and wants to contribute, but admits, in the very first line, they have not seen the magazine itself.

Contributors does not need a capital C.

Second sentence is badly written.

Opportunities? Like what? This isn't a 15-year-old looking for a break. The person admits to having written for several publications, but doesn't mention what they are. Why not?


Thanks for your email. Have you ever seen our magazine?

Gary Inman Editor

Second attempt

Hi Gary,

read some of the website content and saw your advert for the event

in October, which was on Krazyhorse’s facebook page.

I love motorbikes, adventures, travel, films. 



The person wants to work for a magazine (and be paid) but has never seen, held or read it. How can someone pitch ideas or know if they're right for a magazine they've never read? This is not just displaying disrespect for the magazine, but also its readership. Admitting, 'I know bugger all about Sideburn, but I can bash something out for the mugs who buy it.'

First sentence doesn't start with a capital. This is someone trying to impress an editor and their writing is so shoddy it's clearly just bashed off on a phone mid-bowel movement.

Doesn't namecheck the October event, pointing to me that they couldn't be bothered to remind themselves of the name (Rollerburn, by the way).

Wrote Krazy Horse as one word (poor attention to detail).

Last sentence sums up about 300 million of the worlds population. Hardly a USP.


To be blunt, until you've seen the magazine there isn't a lot of point in communicating.

End of communication.

Final point

If you want a job, or an opportunity, or a chance, at least get off your arse and do the research.


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